The Great War in the Air

John Morrow’s THE GREAT WAR IN THE AIR is a survey of all aspects of aerial combat during World War I. Morrow discusses the state of aviation at the beginning of the conflict and then offers a year by year account of its progress and setbacks through the war. According to Morrow, France led the way in aviation technology and procurement, while the United States, Russia, and Italy lagged significantly behind. Germany, meanwhile, gradually gave up the use of Zeppelins as a weapon of terror against civilian populations and relied instead on more effective fighters and infantry attack airplanes. The book concludes by discussing the contraction of all air forces after the end of the war.

Morrow has been exhaustive in his research and has written a richly detailed account of his subject. While he discusses the exploits of Immelmann, Richthofen, Rickenbacker, and other aces, Morrow concentrates mainly on difficulties in procuring airplanes and (especially) aircraft engines in the face of the bureaucratic confusion present on both sides. Morrow also examines the changing doctrine of the use of aviation in warfare, including the rudimentary beginnings of strategic bombing. Morrow’s one weakness is that he does not sufficiently link aerial warfare to the larger strategic picture of the conflict. Though THE GREAT WAR IN THE AIR sometimes offers too many details and not enough analysis, it provides a comprehensive, even, and well-researched history of aviation in World War I.